He could never have imagined the outcome as he walked out the door to investigate the gathering of people at the front of his church. Martin Luther King was drawn into the civil rights movement that day, and emerged as its spokesman in a critical time in the history of the USA, ultimately costing him his life… Ian Thorpe had left his camera in his hotel room, so returned to collect it before visiting a world-famous landmark. That decision allowed Thorpe to remain a stunned spectator to the events of September 11, 2001 rather than experience it from the observation deck he had planned to visit.
In all of the events which make up a person’s life, it is impossible to predict which choices are life-changing, which events will have meaning far greater than their apparent significance. Can Simon and Andrew really have understood what was ahead for them when an itinerant Galilean invited them to “Come, follow me?”
So many different offers pass through the church mailbox: how to transform your youth ministry, how to increase your giving, how to revitalize your church’s evangelism… all offering simple programs to fulfil the pastoral/ministry dream of the world-changing church; well-meaning, but all of them fundamentally flawed. A true spirituality cannot be obtained through a packaged program, as it relies on the participation and act of God. And if God can be guaranteed to work through a particular program, then one would have to be suspicious – is God under our control? And if so, then what sort of God is that?
“The wind of the Spirit blows where it wills,” said Jesus, reminding us that God is as elusive as the wind. Who can trace the source of a wind, or knows where it ends? While we can harness its power for many things, we are largely powerless to ensure that such winds blow – they are beyond our control to start or finish. But when we prepare ourselves to ride such winds, we can indeed soar to amazing heights. I watch the paragliders wending their way through the thermals, climbing high above the clifftops from where they launched and wonder what the Wright Brothers would make of it. As wind- and kite-surfers enjoy the wonders of the winds, I am reminded of the wonderful potential of those who prepare themselves for the coming of the Spirit. Unable to control the winds, the vigilance and skill of these surfers allows them to take advantage of their presence.
Who can tell where the wind of God’s Spirit will take us as we gather week by week? Or what God’s Spirit might bring through our community in the months and years to come? None of us! But we can prepare ourselves in the hope that the winds do blow. The results may not be all that newsworthy, but the potential is always there for changing someone’s world! And it might emerge from a single innocuous decision.
September 5, 2004